Today I am excited because I have a post from Andrew White a head of Marketing of Loveawake.com dating site. He is a recognized expert on online marketing and self-motivation. He beautifully answers what is leadership in this insightfularticle.We hope you learn more and enjoy the reading as we did.
I recently picked up John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – there are a lot of books on leadership, but when I was flipping through its pages at Barnes and Noble, its contents really resonated with me so I bought it. I was later comforted to learn that it is among the top-rated books when searching for “leadership” on Amazon.com.
Something you should know about me, if it wasn’t already patently obvious, is that I am not a natural leader. I am, however, a naturally fluent and eloquent speaker. For a long time, I painfully and mistakenly confused my oratory charisma with charisma and leadership par excellence. I have experienced a lot of frustration stemming from wanting others to follow me and then being disappointed when I didn’t achieve the results I wanted. This was due to a disconnect between my perception of my leadership abilities and others’ perception of my strength as a leader. (And if there isn’t already a whole category of mental health literature dedicated to disconnects between your self-perceptions and others’ perception of you, there ought to be.)
Fortunately, leadership is a skill that can be acquired, and it’s one that I’m working on. I have a long journey ahead of me, and this book has helped me realize actionable areas where I can work to grow.
This post is long – I am not yet skilled enough in leadership to write a shorter one – but it is shorter than Maxwell’s book.
Here we go.
Law of the lid – leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness
For any goals that require participation or cooperation of other people, your effectiveness will be greatly impacted by leadership. Fortunately, leadership ability is something you can work to improve: a good start is by better alignment with these laws!
Law of influence – the true measure of leadership is influence–nothing more, nothing less
Leadership doesn’t come from a title. This may explain why a lot of people cling to their titles, say, in the workplace environment; it validates a self-image of being high ranking, without requiring any real charisma. It may also explain why some people become egregiously offended by people claiming to be the CEO of businesses with a handful or even zero employees. (Big-time CEOs are often true leaders, and awarding yourself a big title can help you influence others.)
Leadership doesn’t come from having a lot of knowledge; there are plenty of academics and other obscure erudites who aren’t leaders. However, a lack of knowledge can sabotage an otherwise capable leader; indeed, knowledge breeds capability, which is a trait of the leader, but knowledge alone is not sufficient criterion for leadership. Leadership doesn’t come from being a manager or entrepreneur. As a manager, you’re just managing pre-existing systems to make sure that they don’t run off course. As an entrepreneur, you’re just identifying and executing on business opportunities. Of course, leadership skill can greatly help a manager or entrepreneur succeed. And leadership doesn’t come from being a pioneer. Just because you are the first to explore an unknown area (for example, experimenting with a new approach to nutrition) doesn’t make you a leader. Instead, proof of leadership is found in followers. If other people follow your foray to the unknown, then you are a leader.
I’ll reiterate: proof of leadership is found in followers.
Several factors come into play when people emerge as leaders: their character (who they are), their relationships (who they know), their knowledge (what they know), their intuition (what they feel), their experience (where they’ve been), their past success (what they’ve done), and their ability (what they can do).
There is a difference between leadership with leverage, where someone follows you because you have control over their salary, academic history, or can hold some other gun to their head, and pure leadership, which stems from influence.
If you want to test your leadership skills, try getting involved with a volunteer organization and try to effect change. This may be one of the reasons employers like Joel Spolsky value starting non-profits in college: its a test of leadership ability. And as Maxwell mentions (in Law 20), having leaders in your organization is a great boon.
Law of Process – leadership develops daily, not in a day
We need to use our pre-frontal cortex and construct a long-term plan for cultivating our leadership skills. Determine a personal plan for growth; set goals. I found this book to be helpful. You can also make long-term investments in people who follow you; one way to do this is by creating a culture of growth within your company (or any other organization). Tony Hsieh did this at Zappos (check out my notes on his book Delivering Happiness).
Law of Navigation – anyone can steer the ship but it takes a leader to chart the course
Preparation is critical! Maxwell advises that you do your homework before creating an action plan: draw on past experience, hold intentional convos with experts and team members to gather info, and examine current conditions. I can testify from personal experience that it is much much easier to get someone to comply with your wishes if you have exhaustively prepared. My high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Casey O’Connell, taught that to me by making sure that we tried as hard as we could on a problem, and then writing down our specific questions, before approaching him for help. That way, we could get immediately down to business. Similarly, people on message boards are much more likely to help you with a problem if you’ve done your homework: tell them that you’ve experimented with different approaches and that you’ve searched on Google before asking. People like to help, but they often resent their time being wasted, which is a sign of disrespect. As you’ll see in Law 7, respect for others is an important attribute of a leader.
Also, it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to fake skill. Studies have demonstrated that experts remember more details from conversations in subjects of their expertise, spot more nuanced features when glancing at a subject-relevant object, and can have quicker response times to questions. When you are talking with someone, through your response time and other subtle cues, they can get an intuitive read of your preparedness or expertise.
Law of addition – leaders add value by serving others
Are you making things better for those who follow you? You can lead others for whom you are making conditions worse (e.g. in abusive relationships), but this is not a profitable and viable long-term strategy (c.f. recent drama in the stock market). Value adding requires intentionality: although we’ve been socially conditioned to think otherwise, we humans are really selfish creatures. You can argue about altruism (Williams syndrome cases are an exception), but normal altruism is mostly directed toward group members, and you can even argue that selflessness only exists because of selfish payoff. Perhaps through an evolution of consciousness we can conceive of all of humanity as one group, but that would be subject for another post.
Maxwell says we add value when we value others, when we make ourselves more valuable to others, and when we know and relate to what others value. This last one is huge, both in personal life and in business. On a business’s website, we should tailor our messaging to what the customer actually cares about instead of bragging about our own success. In writing this blog, I am going to try to be aware that examples I provide from my personal life actually help drive points home and are not simply self-serving egocentricity (I have already done some vicious editing).
Some exercises recommended by Maxwell:
* If you want to improve in this area, you can practice doing small acts of service for others without seeking credit or recognition for them, and then continue until you no longer resent doing them.
* Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 on how well you relate to the values of people close to you. If you can’t articulate what someone values, then spend more time with that person in order to improve. (I just applied this idea when shopping for a birthday gift.)
Law of solid ground – trust is the foundation of leadership
Maxwell says that trust comes from competence, connection, and character. Character communicates consistency, potential, respect; character comprises integrity, authenticity, and discipline. In order to develop integrity, don’t shave the truth, don’t tell white lies, and don’t fudge numbers. Be truthful even when it hurts. In order to develop authenticity, be yourself with everyone. In order to develop discipline, do the right thing every day regardless of how you feel. If you want to test whether you’re trustworthy, ask yourself: do you regularly carry weighty responsibilities? Do you hear bad news from followers instead of just good news?
If your followers aren’t placing their complete trust in you, you shouldn’t blame them. Instead, ask yourself what you can do to build more trust.
Law of respect – people naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves
This one is huge. Having an understanding of this is very important to understanding human nature. People will only follow leaders stronger than themselves and very rarely follow leaders weaker than themselves. People may follow someone weaker if it’s in the context of the workplace, or if they absolutely need to in order to achieve some personal end. However, people will rarely comply with people weaker than them and they will resent having to follow someone weaker than them. (It could be fun to do an analysis of leadership in the context of the TV show The Office, wherein frustration results from having a non-leader, Michael Scott, with a leadership title. Incidentally, I am planning another post about The Office, tentatively titled “Information Theory and Comedy”).
There are six ways leaders gain other’s respect:
1. Natural leadership ability.
2. Respect for others. Following a leader is voluntary.
3. Courage. Courage includes doing what’s right, even at the risk of failure, in the face of great danger and under the brunt of relentless criticism. It gives followers hope.
4. Success. This is self-explanatory, but everyone enjoys siding with a winner.
5. Loyalty. People respect people who stick with the team until the job is done, remain loyal to the organization when the going gets rough, and look out for followers even when it hurts them.
6. Adding value to others.
If you’re curious about “measuring your respect”, try looking at the caliber of people who choose to follow you. Your strength is signified by both the ceiling and the average strength of your followers. Also, you can try seeing how your people respond when you ask for commitment or change: this tests your compliance, which is the measure of your influence, which as stated in Law 2, is the true reflection your strength as a leader.
If your goal is to improve your strength, rather than measure, then create a goal, practice or habit for each of the six areas. Ask people in your life who are closest to you what they respect most about you, and ask them to tell you in which areas you most need to grow. Then chart your course based on their honest feedback.
Law of intuition – leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias
Leaders read a lot of things: leaders read situations, leaders read trends, leaders read their resources, leaders read people, and leaders read themselves. Leaders are intuitive in their areas of strength.
In order to grow in this area, I’ve been working on my ability to read people. If this is something you’re interested in, you can read my notes on Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman or What Every Body Is Saying by Joe Navarro. Paul Ekman’s book Unmasking the Face is also fairly good, and he has an online course to train your ability to quickly interpret emotions. I’m going to sign up for it and review it soon.
Maxwell advises, “Think about your current projects or goals. Imagine how you can accomplish them without doing any of the work yourself…except by recruiting, empowering, and motivating others.”
Who is the best person to take this on?
What resources do we possess that can help us?
What will this take financially?
How can I encourage my team to achieve success?
Law of magnetism – who you are is who you attract
People attract others of similar generation, attitude, background, values, energy, giftedness, and leadership ability. Be cognizant of that. As Sequoia Capital, one of the world’s elite venture capital firms, says on their webpage explaining their criterion for companies they choose to invest in: “A company’s DNA is set in the first 90 days. All team members are the smartest or most clever in their domain. ‘A’ level founders attract an “A” level team.” Other books also express the notion that “B” founders attract a “C” level team, and so forth.
Law of connection – leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand
Maxwell says that there are eight steps to connection:
1. Connect with yourself;
2. Communicate with openness and sincerity;
3. Know your audience;
4. Live your message;
5. Go to where they are;
6. Focus on them, not yourself;
7. Believe in them;
8. Offer direction and hope;
He also offers the helpful maxim, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Law of the inner circle – a leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him
On selecting your inner circle, ask:
1. Do they have high influence with others?
2. Do they bring a complementary gift to the table?
3. Do they hold a strategic position in their organization?
4. Do they add value to me and to the organization? seek people who help you improve
5. Do they positively impact other inner circle members?
A “yes” answer to the above five criteria is not sufficient grounds for inclusion, but Maxwell cautions that a single no is grounds for exclusion. He adds that in general, you should look for people who evince excellence, maturity, and good character in everything they do.
Law of empowerment – only secure people give power to others
If you’re feeling insecure about this, Maxwell claims the paradoxical “making yourself dispensable, you actually make yourself indispensable”. Unfortunately, he does not justify it from a logical perspective, but it seems intuitively right and I’m ready to believe him based on his extensive leadership experience. Maybe the paradox is true because having the ability to empower people is a leadership trait, and strong leaders are always desirable.
Also, he recommends that you start believing in your people. Dwell on their positive qualities and characteristics; look for their greatest strengths and envision how they could leverage those strengths to achieve significant things. You gain nothing by dwelling on their weaknesses (except, perhaps, when evaluating for termination or reassignment). As Dale Carnegie advises, “Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.”
Law of the picture – people do what people see
There’s a reason that “do as I say, not as I do” is such an ineffective leadership strategy. We are mimetic learners and more readily learn by imitation rather than through explicit instruction.
1. Followers are always watching what you do
2. It’s easier to teach what’s right than to do what’s right
3. We should work on changing ourselves before trying to improve others
4. According to workers surveyed, the most valuable gift a leader can give is being a good example
Mission provides purpose, answering “why?”
Vision provides a picture, answering “what?”
Strategy provides a plan, answering “how?”
If you want to improve your alignment with the law of the picture, list three to five things you wish your people did better than they currently do. Now, grade your performance on them. If your self-scores are low, then you need to change your behavior. If your scores are high, then you need to make your example more visible to your people.
Law of buy-in – people buy into the leader, then the vision
The leader finds the dream and then the people; the people find the leader and then the dream. If you are struggling to find people willing to listen to your great idea, perhaps you should consider improving your leadership skills.
The law of victory – leaders find a way for the team to win
The best leaders are relentless in their pursuit of group victory. Leadership is responsible, losing is unacceptable, passion is unquenchable, creativity is essential, quitting is unthinkable, commitment is unquestionable, victory is inevitable.
There are three components that lead to victory:
1. Unity of vision, with everyone sharing a common agenda. This is crucial, and unfortunately, many people have their own personal agendas (of advancement, or psychology game-play) that really work against project success.
2. Diversity of skills
3. A leader dedicated to victory and raising players to their potential
Law of the big mo – momentum is a leader’s best friend
In top-tier organizations, there is a spirit of excellence that produces positive upward momentum.
1.Momentum is the great exaggerator;
2. Momentum makes leaders look better than they are;
3. Momentum helps followers perform better than they are;
4. Momentum is easier to steer than start;
5. Momentum is the most powerful change agent;
6. Momentum is the leader’s responsibility;
7. Momentum begins inside the leader;
In order to foster momentum, continually praise effort, but reward and celebrate accomplishments. I’m not certain about the best way to reward someone, whether it’s through social rewards, cash incentives, or cash equivalents (e.g. sports tickets). Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that achievement-based cash awards only work in a mechanical environment, like a factory or homomorphisms thereof, and not in environments requiring creative thinking: in those environments, it actually suppresses performance. My intuition is that cash equivalents are best.
Early wins are critical, so try to see how quickly you can build some kind of momentum.
Law of priorities – leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment
The Pareto principle, as applied to business, states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort.
If you want to improve in this area, three questions are important:
1.What is required?
2. What gives the greatest return?
3. What brings the greatest reward?
List your answers to the above three questions, and then delegate or eliminate things from your life that weren’t listed. As Hiten Shah says, “Do what you love and outsource the rest.” One thing I have to do in my business is make spec documents. The truth of the matter is, this is something I can easily teach to others to a point that they could easily do it 80% as well as me, and probably exceed me with practice. I am going to write a blog post on how to create kick-ass spec documents, and then I can just hire someone else to do them for me.
Law of sacrifice – a leader must give up to go up
There is no success without sacrifice. Leaders are often asked to give up more than others. You must keep giving up to stay up; there’s a common fallacy that once you’ve reached the finish line, you can revert to old behaviors. And the higher the level of leadership, the greater the sacrifice.
Make two lists: things you are willing to give up in order to go up, and the things you are not willing to sacrifice to advance. I’ve made some sacrifices already, such as in my diet (avoiding meat, raw and refined sugar, and other indulgences). I’ve stopped smoking weed, and I’m planning on making a post on how to stop smoking, targeted towards people who are thinking about quitting. Also, I’ve really cut down on my alcohol consumption; I rarely drink when I go out. (This doesn’t pose any social problems, since if I want to drink something when I’m out, I order water and tip the bartender, and nobody really cares.) Something I should give up, but haven’t yet, is negative thinking. I am working on it, though. One way I’m tackling it is through journaling gratitude at GratitudeLog.com (I should make this a daily practice).
Something I’m not yet willing to give up is playing basketball.
Law of timing – when to lead is as important as what to do and where to go
Timing requires an understanding of the situation, maturity (right motives), confidence, decisiveness, experience, intuition (e.g. about timing and morale), and preparation (if the timing isn’t right, the leader must create those conditions).
Law of explosive growth – to add growth, lead followers–to multiply, lead leaders
Leaders who develop leaders want to be succeeded. As I mentioned earlier, when you make yourself dispensable, you paradoxically become indispensable. Leaders who develop leaders develop the top 20 percent; leaders who develop leaders focus on strengths; leaders who develop leaders treat individuals differently, focusing on the highest-performing individuals; leaders who develop leaders invest time in others, building for the very long-term.
Unfortunately, developing leaders is not an “add-water-and-stir proposition”. Leaders are hard to find (they don’t flock, like most humans/other animals), they’re hard to gather, and hard to keep.
There are three stages to developing leaders: stage 1 is developing yourself. Stage 2 is developing your team. And stage 3 is developing leaders.
Law of legacy – a leader’s lasting value is measured by succession
1. Know the legacy you want to leave
2. Live the legacy you want to leave
3. Choose who will carry on your legacy
4. Make sure you pass the baton
There’s an exercise that can help with steps one through three: imagine that you’re attending your own funeral and somehow have the ability to hear what people are saying at your eulogy. What do they say about you? Now consider what you’d want them to say about you – and act accordingly to shape their future behavior, today. Others may benefit from Steve Pavlina’s exercise on finding your life purpose. This may be my weakest area; right now, I don’t have any strong purpose. I do know that there’s more work I need to do in order to uncover it.
* * *
By reading his book and posting these “laws”, I am affirming Maxwell’s influence. Do I think that this list is comprehensive and exhaustive? No. Do I think the 21 laws are “irrefutable”? Not necessarily. But as Max DePree says, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” (Recall Steve Jobs’s famous “reality distortion field”.) DePree’s claim makes sense in a tribal sort of way; our realities are socially constructed, and who best to set the tone, or frame, than the leader? So Maxwell’s use of definitive language, “irrefutable”, is understandable. I hope this post has benefited you on your quest to improve yourself as a leader. I know it’s benefited me. If you want to check out the book on Amazon, you can do so here.